Topeka first responders share insight on increasing opioid use in Shawnee County

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Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:40 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise across the country and across northeast Kansas, particularly in Shawnee County.

On Wednesday during the Safe Streets monthly meeting, a panel of first responders reported Shawnee County has the third-highest overdose fatality rate in the state. They say they’ve noticed several trends regarding opioid use in Shawnee County, including more widespread use of fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.

Particularly concerning is an increasing number of older people unintentionally developing an addiction after being prescribed opiates for pain management.

Richard Sigle, Chief of Emergency Medical Services for the Topeka Fire Department, says to monitor older family members’ medications and watch for suspicious behavior. “If they are on any of the pain control medicines, just be observant of that, because we know that some of these people never intended to become addicts, it’s just the nature of that particular drug.”

Signs of an opioid-related overdose include slow or shallow breathing and unresponsiveness. Officials say if you suspect this is happening to somebody you know, call 911 immediately.

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